Aventure Écotourisme Québec:
Experience and expertise

For more than 30 years, Aventure Écotourisme Québec (AEQ) has served as a compass for the outdoor industry and worked to position Quebec as a top destination for nature and adventure travel enthusiasts.

Recognized by the Ministère du Tourisme du Québec as the official voice of the adventure and ecotourism sector, AEQ oversees the Quality-Safety certification program, which includes 60 of the most stringent industry standards. AEQ’s expertise in providing a framework for outdoor activities is recognized by the Quebec government and the World Tourism Organization (Global Report on Adventure Tourism, Volume 9, 2014).

Today, AEQ represents over 230 businesses specializing in over 50 outdoor activities for every season. The association offers its members a wide range of services designed to help them improve their sustainable development, their business practices and their positioning in tourism markets. AEQ was also instrumental in the creation of the 1% for the Planet Outdoor Fund.

The pioneering Quality-Safety
certification model

Quality-Safety certification is a self-regulatory process for adventure tourism businesses. It includes more than 60 general standards based on strict criteria covering risk and emergency management, communication with customers, required training for guides, guest-to-guide ratios and environmental responsibility. It also sets specific standards for individual outdoor activities. Advisors guide companies through the certification process and monitor compliance with site visits every three years.

Quality-Safety certified businesses:

  • Meet the highest industry standards while receiving comprehensive support (personalized service, a well-stocked toolkit, onsite assessment and guidance).
  • Demonstrate professionalism and are part of a network of leaders recognized for best practices.
  • Gain access to a minimum of $2 million in liability insurance tailored to the nature and adventure tourism industry.
  • Are eligible for financial assistance programs offered by the Ministère du Tourisme.
  • Actively contribute to the common goal of making Quebec a world-class destination.

In January 2020, the Quality-Safety certification, which AEQ had held for more than 20 years, became mandatory for all adventure tourism businesses receiving financial assistance from the Ministère du Tourisme. This recognition of our expertise gave new direction and impetus to the adventure tourism sector. The number of Quality-Safety certified businesses in Quebec jumped from 110 to 230 in just three years, making the province a leader in quality and safety.

A team of trailblazers

The credibility of the Quality-Safety label begins with extensive consultation with Quebec’s outdoor community.

The standards are based on those of our partner outdoor associations in each discipline. And committees made up of company managers, experienced guides and recognized organizations like the Laboratoire d’expertise et de recherche en plein air help update and improve them. Providing safe experiences is our primary concern and we believe in uniting all of our community stakeholders around this important goal.

Standards for “ORPHAN” disciplines

We also work to develop safety standards for outdoor activities that don’t have an officially recognized organization. Among our recent projects:

  • In 2021, the Quebec government asked AEQ to provide training and issue a mandatory certification for off-road vehicle excursion guides.
  • In 2022, we collaborated with a team of experts to establish Quebec’s first-ever certification program for dog sled guides.
  • In the last year, we launched pilot projects to train and certify aerial adventure and zip-line guides.

Environmental stewardship:
the natural way forward

Nature is the driving force behind adventure tourism, and it is also Quebec’s greatest resource. Our duties as environmental stewards are not to be taken lightly.

In the face of the climate crisis, AEQ is moving into high gear with an ambitious sustainable development action plan that commits the association and its members to achieving 13 measurable milestones by 2025. The plan provides a coherent vision for industry stakeholders to commit to the ecosystems and communities with which they interact, and to inspire their customers to do the same.

Integrating green practices into certification standards

One of our main goals is to put Quebec’s adventure and ecotourism sector on a collective carbon-neutral path by 2025. With this in mind, environmentally responsible practices are a mandatory standard for Quality-Safety certification. To become an AEQ member, businesses must:

  • Receive an eco-responsibility rating from Les Pages vertes and have a sustainability action plan in place
    In partnership with Les Pages vertes, Quebec’s directory of environmentally responsible companies, we offer our members free customized support that includes an analysis of their environmental practices, a sustainability action plan and an eco-responsibility rating.
  • Assess their carbon emissions (scopes 1, 2 and 3)
    By calculating the carbon emissions of our network, we can set appropriate greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets for the adventure tourism industry. We are working with Tourisme durable Québec to launch a tool for members in the fall of 2023.

Taking collective action to reduce the environmental footprint of our industry

In 2020, Aventure Écotourisme Québec became the first tourism association to partner with the global 1% for the Planet network in launching the 1% for the Planet Outdoor Fund.

The Fund is a turnkey tool for outdoor companies, which can channel their giving toward the environment while getting assistance for core projects done here in Quebec and certified by 1% for the Planet. A portion of the Fund is also used to help our member businesses implement environmentally responsible practices.

By combining our efforts, we can more effectively support promising projects with an immediate impact. The combined revenue of AEQ member companies is $176 million. That’s a potential annual investment of $1.7 million in protecting our planet!

Since the Fund’s inception in 2020:

See how the Fund's collective action adds up

Clear guidelines for ecotourism

As the first official standard for ecotourism products in Quebec, our Ecotourism attestation program promotes businesses that offer ecotourism activities and highlights their best practices in sustainability. Becoming Ecotourism verified marks them as leaders who care about the planet. We also give them the support they need to take their commitment to the environment a step further and promote it to their customers.

To become Ecotourism verified, businesses must:

  • Be a Quality-Safety certified member of AEQ
  • Meet the 9 Ecotourism attestation standards
  • Obtain an ecoresponsibility rating of 70% or more from Les Pages vertes
  • Carry out a carbon emission assessment
  • Have an onsite inspection every 3 years

Our mission: to be a compass
for success in the great outdoors

We provide ongoing assistance to adventure and ecotourism operators to highlight innovation and best practices in our industry.

We offer training, tools and one-on-one consultations to help AEQ members optimize their business practices and navigate digital transformation. We also lobby decision-makers and intervene in times of crisis. In partnership with the Quebec Regional Parks network, we organize the annual AEQ – PaRQ event, the largest gathering of outdoor recreation advocates in Quebec.

The Quebec Adventure Outdoor portal is also a great marketing tool we offer our members. With more than 50 outdoor activities and 518,000 user sessions per year, the online directory is an excellent showcase for the unique Quebec experience.

Partners in a forward-looking industry

As a destination, Quebec is a magnet for adventure tourism. And AEQ is driven by a constant focus on innovation, working closely with partners in the tourism ecosystem like Alliance de l’industrie touristique du Québec, regional and sectoral tourism associations, Tourisme durable QuébecLeave No Trace Canada and Conseil québécois des ressources humaines en tourisme to push our industry even further.

We’re proud to be a founding partner of the Northern Incubator-Accelerator since 2021. We work with Québec Outfitters and Indigenous Tourism Quebec to help entrepreneurs north of the 49th parallel realize their dreams.

AEQ is also a proud member of the Adventure Travel Trade Association since 2007 and a member of the 1% for the Planet network since 2020.